Nation vs. Nation: Do Countries Compete in Trade and Health Care?
About This Event

Event Summary

The second in a series of conferences looking at various aspects of international competitiveness brought scholars to AEI on Wednesday to examine competitiveness in three spheres: international markets, trade and health care. Phillip Swagel of AEI kicked off the conference with a presentation on international competitiveness, which framed the discussion of the day. He reviewed the general indicators of competitiveness, such as real exchange rates, and concluded that the word "competitiveness," though often misused, has several useful meanings. AEI's Claude Barfield and Matthew Jensen followed with their presentation on global value chains. First, they explored how this new type of trade fits into the standard framework of trade theory that has existed since David Ricardo's work in the early 19th century and how it undermines arguments for industrial policy. In the second part of their presentation, they focused on statistical evidence of the fragmentation of the production process, especially in East Asia and the United States. To conclude the conference, AEI's Benjamin Zycher discussed U.S. competitiveness in the health care market. He analyzed the efficiency of the health care industry, focusing specifically on whether the United States spends more on health care while getting less. He concluded that, contrary to conventional wisdom, once data are adjusted, the United States arguably delivers more while spending less. Overall, the event continued to reframe the policy debate and explore new research topics in the area of competitiveness.
--Veronika Polakova

Politicians often call for actions to enhance U.S. competitiveness and chide their political rivals for pursuing policies contrary to that purpose. Meanwhile, segments of the academic community have largely written off national competitiveness as meaningless. Economist Paul Krugman went so far as to say that "the obsession with competitiveness is not only wrong but dangerous, skewing domestic policies and threatening the international system." In light of the academic challenge to the notion of competitiveness, AEI has gathered experts to research the value of the concept of competitiveness in different spheres. How do we define competitiveness, and is it worth pursuing as a policy goal? In what way do countries compete in various areas, including international trade and health care? 

This AEI conference will be the second of a three-part series in which scholars will present new research on competitiveness. Each paper will be presented by its author(s), followed by comments from an expert and questions from the audience.

If you cannot attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page.
Full video is usually posted within 24 hours after the event.

Listen to audio from Panel 1 here. Audio from Panels 2 & 3 can be found under Event Materials at the bottom of the page.

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8:45 AM
Registration and Breakfast

9:00 AM
Panel I: International Competitiveness


JANE G. GRAVELLE, Congressional Research Service

10:00 AM
Panel II: Global Value Chains and the Continuing Case for Free Trade: Theory and Illustrations from the United States and East Asia


THEODORE H. MORAN, Georgetown University

11:00 AM
Panel III: U.S. Medical Competitiveness: International Comparisons of Outcomes and Real Resource Use


MICHAEL F. CANNON, Cato Institute

12:00 PM
Event Contact Information

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Veronika Polakova at [email protected], 202.862.4880.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Claude Barfield, a former consultant to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, is a resident scholar at AEI, where he researches international trade policy (including trade policy in China and East Asia), the World Trade Organization (WTO), intellectual property, and science and technology policy. His many books include "SWAP: How Trade Works" (AEI Press, 2011) and "Free Trade, Sovereignty, Democracy: The Future of the World Trade Organization" (AEI Press, 2001), in which he identifies challenges to the WTO and to the future of trade liberalization.

Michael F. Cannon is the Cato Institute's director of health policy studies. Previously, he served as a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee under Chairman Larry E. Craig, where he advised the Senate leadership on health, education, labor, welfare and the Second Amendment. Mr. Cannon has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News Channel and NPR. Cited by The Washington Post as "an influential health-care wonk at the libertarian Cato Institute," his articles have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Forum for Health Economics & Policy, and the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. He is co-author of "Healthy Competition: What's Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It."

Jane G. Gravelle
is a senior specialist in economic policy in the Government and Finance Division of Congressional Research Service. She specializes in the economics of taxation, particularly the effects of tax policies on economic growth and resource allocation. Her recent papers have addressed fiscal stimulus, tax rebates, consumption taxes, dynamic revenue estimating, investment subsidies, capital gains taxes, individual retirement accounts, estate and gift taxes, family tax issues, charitable contributions and corporate taxation. In addition to her work at CRS, Ms. Gravelle is the author of numerous articles in books and professional journals, including recent papers on the tax burdens across families and tax reform proposals.  She is also the author of a book, “The Economic Effects of Taxing Capital Income”; co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Taxation and Tax Policy;  and editor of the Tax Expenditures Compendium published every two years by the Senate Budget Committee.  She is past president of the National Tax Association and received the association’s public service award in 2007.

Kevin A. Hassett is the director of economic policy studies and a senior fellow at AEI. Before joining AEI, he was a senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and an associate professor of economics and finance at the Graduate School of Business of Columbia University, as well as a policy consultant to the Treasury Department during the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He served as an economic adviser to the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign, chief economic adviser to Senator John McCain during the 2000 presidential primaries and senior economic adviser to the McCain 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Hassett also writes a column for National Review.

Matthew H. Jensen
is a research assistant at AEI with an active research agenda focused on public finance. In addition to AEI publications, his work has appeared in Tax Notes, The Wall Street Journal, Real Clear Markets and others. His research on deficit reduction includes the widely discussed, co-authored AEI working paper, "A Guide for Deficit Reduction in the United States Based on Historical Consolidations that Worked," which presents evidence that expenditure cuts outweigh revenue increases in successful deficit reduction efforts.

Theodore H. Moran holds the Marcus Wallenberg Chair in International Business and Finance at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, where he teaches and conducts research at the intersection of international economics, business, foreign affairs and public policy. He is founder of the Landegger Program in International Business Diplomacy and serves as director in providing courses on international business-government relations and negotiations to some 600 undergraduate and graduate students each year. He is also associated with the Peterson Institute and is a consultant to the United Nations, to diverse governments in Asia and Latin America, and to the international business and financial communities. He serves as a member of Huawei's International Advisory Council. Since 2007, he has served as associate to the US National Intelligence Council on international business issues. His most recent books include “Foreign Direct Investment and Development: Launching a Second Generation of Policy Research: Avoiding the Mistakes of the First, Reevaluating Policies for Developed and Developing Countries” (2011), “China's Strategy to Secure Natural Resources: Risks, Dangers, and Opportunities” (2010), and “Three Threats: An Analytical Framework for the CFIUS Process” (2009).

Phillip Swagel, an economist and academic, was assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department from 2006 to 2009, where he was responsible for analysis on a wide range of economic issues, including policies relating to the financial crisis and the Troubled Asset Relief Program. He has also served as chief of staff and senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers and as an economist at the Federal Reserve Board and the International Monetary Fund. He is concurrently a professor of international economics at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy. He has previously taught at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, and Georgetown University. Mr. Swagel works on both domestic and international economic issues at AEI.  His research topics include financial markets reform, international trade policy, and the role of China in the global economy.

Benjamin Zycher
is the president of Benjamin Zycher Economics Associates Inc., a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, and an adjunct professor of Economics and Business at the Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics, California State University, Channel Islands. He is an associate in the Intelligence Community Associates Program of the Office of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State. He served as a senior staff economist for the President's Council of Economic Advisers from July 1981 to July 1983. He is the author of the recent AEI Press book "Renewable Electricity Generation: Economic Analysis and Outlook."

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